South West Four 2009

Resident Advisor

Original article here

Another year, another August bank holiday weekend and Clapham Common once again overtaken by the dual dance-fests of South West Four and Get Loaded. A beautiful blue sky dotted with fluffy white clouds greeted the 20,000 strong South West Four crowd as they trooped across the Common, many arriving for an early set from Richie Hawtin. 

After missing a connecting flight to Glasgow and disappointing hordes of fans at The Arches the night before, Hawtin looked like he was trying to start another hectic day as he meant to go on, pounding out tough, dark, rousing techno to get the party started. Back out in the sunshine of the main stage, James Zabiela was also playing an early set because of later commitments at Creamfields, but again seemed committed to entertaining the masses with his usual mix of euphoric tech house and CDJ trickery. 

Photo credit: Vickie Parker 

After a quick gander at old pro Nick Warren in the Global Underground tent, it was back to the Shake It! tent, where Timo Maas had taken over late afternoon duties. Curiously, even with sound restrictions in place, Maas played the same kind of bass heavy, tribal house workout you would expect on a proper club soundsystem. It was a wholly uninspiring few hours, and despite taking things a bit more dirty and energetic, Dubfire ran into the same problems as his dark, minimal style also proved incompatible with the weak PA system. 

It was with this in mind that the decision was taken to indulge a personal teen dream and go see BT in the Gallery tent. Even with the quietest speakers in the arena, he still managed to get the crowd going with his infectious enthusiasm and maximal music. Singing, dancing and sans headphones, his old classic "Flaming June" was a set highlight. We went back to catch the end of Dubfire's set, and it was well worth it—if only to contrast BT's exaggerated vocal breakdowns with the raw power of "Grindhouse Tool," before tent organisers Layo & Bushwacka! took over. 

Photo credit: Vickie Parker 

The dynamic duo went about proving why they deserved headliner status, adding just the right amount of funk and soul to the tough tech house of their predecessors. Before long though the inevitable migration towards the Sasha & Digweed's main stage main event started, only delayed by the tantalising sounds of Basement Jaxx's "Fly Life" blasting out of the Global Underground tent. 

It was of course the ever-consistent Darren Emerson, showing exactly how an experienced DJ should adapt to their surroundings, realising the best way to deal with quiet speakers is to play exciting, engaging music, like the epic "Show of Hands" by Bushwacka. By 8 PM, though, there was no choice but to join the masses at the main stage, huddled together like emperor penguins against the wind, happily dancing away to a couple of the masters of the festival genre. 

Photo credit: Vickie Parker 

Just like Emerson before them, Sasha & Digweed kept things melodic and maximal enough to keep heads bobbing despite the buffeted sound, occasionally dropping old favourites like Lifelike & Kris Menace's "Discopolis" and new treats like Sasha's mix of the Doves "Jetstream." 

Despite being cut off on the dot of nine—a harsh reminder of the limitations of such a central festival—the quality of DJs and ease of access makes South West Four a priority, even on this busiest of festival weekends.

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